Tuesday, March 11, 2014
By Greg Reid
Special to the Press Herald
AUGUSTA -- About two minutes into the second quarter, the Pine Tree Academy girls’ basketball team realized something. This state tournament thing isn’t so scary. In fact, it’s kind of fun.
After a nervous first quarter that produced a 7-0 lead, the fourth-seed Breakers rattled off 13 straight points to pull away from No. 5 Islesboro for a 56-24 victory in a Western Class D quarterfinal Tuesday at the Augusta Civic Center.
Eighth-grader Alex Goodman scored 23 points, and Kim Emerson had 15 points and 19 rebounds to send Pine Tree (14-3) to its first state tournament victory. The Breakers’ only other tournament appearances resulted in lopsided losses to Rangeley in 1993 and 2005.
Pine Tree advances to a regional semifinal Thursday against No. 1 Forest Hills, which beat No. 8 Vinalhaven. Islesboro closes at 12-5.
“We were working on just getting out the jitters of playing their first game in the Civic Center,” Pine Tree Coach Josh Dayen said. “It’s a great experience for them.”
Senior captain Becky McGuire and Goodman hit the court early, passing the ball around and taking in the cavernous yet oddly quiet building.
“It was like Christmas morning or something,” McGuire said. “We felt like we earned (a berth), and that’s fun. We had a hard time getting started, but we just kept playing our game.”
The Breakers’ game hinges on a ball-hawking defense, forcing poor shots and creating steals. Goodman led Pine Tree with seven steals; guard Allison Verrill had five.
“Our press was clicking for the most part,” Dayen said. “We play best when we’re able to steal, get in transition and go.”
Islesboro did what it could to slow the Breakers’ attack in the second quarter. Goodman made up for it at the foul line, where she went 6 for 9 for the bulk of her eight points.
After building a 28-2 halftime lead, the Breakers knew not to expect more of the same.
“Coach said they would be less nervous,” McGuire said. “We knew we had to step up our game.”
Dayen was right about that. After Emerson’s shot pushed the lead to 30-2, Eagles guard Autumn Johnson began to assert herself, scoring seven of her 12 points in the quarter. Islesboro outscored Pine Tree 15-11 in the third to close the gap to 39-17.
“We stayed with it,” Goodman said. “We worked the around the perimeter more and stopped forcing it inside.”
But Emerson, a 6-foot-1 forward, was effective when the ball did come her way. In the fourth quarter, she scored two putbacks and two more baskets off nice assists from Goodman.
Now it’s on to the semifinals against Forest Hills, which beat Pine Tree twice in the regular season, 66-48 on Dec. 12 and 47-41 on Jan. 21.
“The second half showed what we need to work on, and that we need to stay focused the whole game,” McGuire said. “If we can play our game, we’ll do well.”